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Blues vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Trades Could Fill Potential Free Agent Voids

Thursday, 06.16.2011 / 11:50 AM / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Trades Could Fill Potential Free Agent Voids

With most of their free-agent negotiations stalling, the Hurricanes appear to be closing in on at least one trade to help fill the void.

Paul Branecky
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Just two weeks remain until July 1, when a group of players including Erik Cole, Jussi Jokinen, Chad LaRose, Joni Pitkanen and Cory Stillman will be allowed to test the open market if not re-signed by the Hurricanes. While management is not close to a deal with any of those players, it is thought to be furthest apart with Jokinen and Pitkanen, who will almost certainly begin talks with other teams next month.

While cautioning that he won’t close the door on any player, that has General Manager Jim Rutherford exploring options to replace the two Finns, with a trade for a power-play quarterback who can play among the top four defensemen – an immediate Pitkanen substitute - potentially quite close to completion.

“We’re talking about a couple of trades, as that may be the way we have to go where we know what contracts are going to be for next season,” he said. “We’re exchanging ideas, and something could happen any time.

“We’ve had enough time now where we have to start looking at how to replace guys that aren’t coming back. My preference would be that they all come back, but at the rate we’re going I just don’t know.”

Rutherford has never been optimistic about re-signing Jokinen and Pitkanen, as the two sides have been far apart since negotiations began. However, he’s had more trouble than expected with Cole and LaRose – two players who hit the open market two years ago before eventually re-signing with the team.

That could again be the case, although Rutherford isn’t making that assumption.

“Things change and I don’t think you can really compare the two situations,” he said. “You can never predict it, but we’ve put our offers and our position out there. I don’t want to bypass other opportunities while I wait for things to progress.”

Making valuations with Cole and LaRose difficult is the fact that each player clearly fared better in one of his last two seasons. LaRose’s point production has been consistent, but his team-worst minus-21 plus/minus rating last season was a cause for concern. Meanwhile, Cole, who posted his highest point total (52) since 2006-07 last season, played just 40 games the season before, scoring a career-low 16 points.

“You can’t look at it as a one-year snap shot,” said Rutherford. “Chad had a better year in his first year, and for a guy that we want to kill penalties and use in a shutdown role, his plus/minus from last year certainly stands out. Erik is coming off the best year of his career I would think, but you also have to look at the year before that.”

Rutherford said that the hold up with Stillman is a different case, with the veteran forward still deciding whether he wants to return for his 17th NHL season.

If trades do occur, Rutherford said that the team could use some of its younger prospects waiting in the system as well as draft picks. While this year’s first-round pick will not be involved in deals, other picks might, including the team’s extra second-round pick in 2012 that came over in a trade for Ian White.

“We’re in a strong position now,” said Rutherford.

If faced with a free-agent exodus of veterans without trades to replace them, another option would be to simply promote from that group of young players, although Rutherford is wary of having so little experience on his roster. Even if Cole and LaRose were to return, two or three forwards from a group of Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe will likely make the jump.

Rounding out the group of pending unrestricted free agents, Rutherford said he hoped to complete a new contract with Jay Harrison in the coming days but was less certain about Patrick Dwyer. He added that he hopes to bring back all of his restricted free agents, a group that includes Brandon Sutter, Derek Joslin, Jiri Tlusty and Troy Bodie. Those negotiations will not intensify until July.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 NYI 47 32 14 1 155 130 65
2 DET 48 28 11 9 144 123 65
3 TBL 49 30 15 4 158 131 64
4 MTL 46 30 13 3 126 108 63
5 PIT 47 27 12 8 143 120 62
6 NYR 45 27 14 4 135 110 58
7 WSH 47 24 14 9 140 124 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 45 20 15 10 111 127 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 49 20 22 7 134 149 47
13 CBJ 46 21 22 3 117 145 45
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 42 16 14 -6 30
J. Faulk 47 9 19 -13 28
E. Lindholm 47 9 11 -11 20
J. Tlusty 40 12 7 -11 19
J. Skinner 42 10 9 -7 19
R. Nash 47 7 12 -4 19
N. Gerbe 43 5 13 -3 18
V. Rask 47 6 9 -10 15
A. Sekera 45 1 14 -6 15
C. Terry 34 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 6 8 2 .918 2.30
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45